Ballou, the Rainbow Macaw
by Alaskan Bird club Member Shirley Riddle
My name is Ballou. I may be only three years old and am just learning to talk, but I am no kid. I’ve been around once or twice. I’m a Rainbow Macaw, just your average Joe Hookbeak. I look mostly like a blue and gold, but I have just enough rowdy scarlet green along my back feathers to let you know I can take care of myself.
Where’d I get the name? I dunno. It’s after a cantankerous gal in a cowboy picture show. But that’s how the story begins – with a dame. I can’t lay a feather on it, but there was something different about her. Maybe it was her eyes, or maybe just the way she looked at me. I dunno. All I knew was things were never gonna be the same again. So there I was, two stickers on my suitcase, a for sale sign on my perch and no prospects, when she walks into the place.
Now don’t get me wrong – my previous owners weren’t that bad. I don’t remember the early years too keen, but first I lived with some guys in an apartment. They must have been kinda rowdy, cause I got a few bad habits that, shall we say, don’t quite fit in with polite society. So that’s where I ended up next. Got hooked up with a well-off family. Nice digs, nothing but nuts and seed mix, and a cozy little cage of my own. It was good while it lasted, but what was a rambunctious bird like me doing in a cushy place like that anyway?
And then there was this new lady. It all happened so fast, I still can’t figure it. One minute she’s a stranger, the next minute she’s taking me home. Look, I’m a suspicious guy, and at first I thought I was getten’ the bums rush to nowhere, but her and her family showed me different. I never met people like them before. I was a 2-time loser with a chip on my shoulder, and they treated me like somebody. They cleaned me up, gave me good food, a swell new double-wide, toys, and even took me to a god Doc, who checks me out and fixed me when I need fixin’. I even got my own Insurance! Best of all they play and talk with me. I think they really like me, bad habits and all.
Boy, I remember that first shower – it was murder! The water ran brown from the smoke in my feathers. And I really liked loungin’ around afterward with a towel over my head – just like the boys in the steam room at the gym. With shiny feathers and a classy wing and nail trim from the Doc, I’m starting to look like some kinda uptown bird.
These aren’t fancy folks either. It’s sorta touchin’ the way they’ll sit around a box of junk for hours making toys that I’ll chomp up I a couple of minutes… And the food’s not champagne and caviar, but it’s good, it’s healthy, and there’s plenty of it. I got to admit, though – I miss sitting on shoulder and snachin’ table scraps form people’s fingers. These guys don’t let me do that. In fact, they don’t let me get away with much. They got their rules, and they make ‘em clear. And they expect me to keep honest. Of course, I never was much for rules, but I kinda grows on you. The keep this up, I might even grow up respectable-like.
What’s really swell is this new family is teaching me stuff. Since I’ve been hangin’ around this joint I’ve learned to talk. I can say 10 or 12 words now, like “good boy,” “hello,” and “step up,” “what,” and “nuts.” They showed me that chompin’ too hard on fingers hurts, and how to tell when I’m doin’ it. They all play games like peek-a-boo with me, just like a human kid. There’s this toy they put nuts in and I have to figure out how to work the thing to get them out again. Not that I’m a wag-tail mutt or anything, but it’s sorta fun. I’m even learnin’ animal talk. I can growl like a dog, meow like a cat, and wolf whistle.
That’s another reason why I like this joint. Other critters live here, so I fit right in. The dogs are fun to throw food at and they eat it up! The cats are fun too. They’re so uppity and superior until you com at ‘em on the back of the couch with your wings up and beak open – then they scatter like rats. And then there’s a little blue parrot want-to-be with an identity crisis. I’m keeping an eyes on that little pip squeak. She chatters and calls all the time, and makes nice and affectionate to the humans, but I got an idea that you cross her, and she’ll chew off your tail feathers.
So, now I gots a real family, a home that’s the cat’s meow, and my lady friend. I don’t have to be tough all the time anymore. I can act like a baby, put my head on your chest and get scratched while I chew your shirt. They’ll stick by me, and I’ll stick by them. And nobody better put the chomp on any of them, or they’ll answer to me. I’m the only one they can do that, see!